The Gospel of John – Jesus’ seven signs

12/6/2012 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

Today, we shift gears a bit as we prepare for what will be a very important teaching coming up early next year:

The Seven Signs of John

The Gospel of John is unique in that it contains a plethora of dialogue attributed to Jesus, the Son of God, which are generally set apart in Biblical texts by using a red font.  It is rivaled only by the Gospel of Matthew in this respect.

We have previously explored what we consider to be John’s unique trait and compared him to one of the prophets, Isaiah, who shared this personality quirk:  He was eagerly awaiting the Jewish Messiah.

Today, we will begin to explore the material in the Gospel of John that we are to teach.  The seven miracles of Jesus that John chose to include in His Gospel.  The miracles are important, for John wrote the Gospel near the end of his long life, sometime between the years 90 and 100 CE (He is presumed to have died in 100 CE at 94 years of age), almost 70 years after Jesus had walked the earth.

John witnessed many miracles performed by Jesus, as he was with him throughout his earthly ministry, beginning with his (Jesus’) baptism by John the Baptist.  John witnessed so many miracles that he saw fit to state in his Gospel,

20:30 Therefore Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; 20:31 but these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”

So why were these seven signs chosen by John, who perhaps knew Jesus better than anyone while He was walking the earth?  It is the aim of this study to answer this question.

What are the seven signs?

The logical place to start, then, would be to identify the seven signs.  According to most Biblical scholars, yours truly included, the seven signs refer to the following miracles which John chose to relate:

  1. Changing water into wine in John 2:1-11
  2. Healing the royal official’s son in Capernaum in John 4:46-54
  3. Healing the paralytic at Bethesda in John 5:1-18
  4. Feeding the 5000 in John 6:5-14
  5. Jesus’ walk on water in John 6:16-24
  6. Healing the blind at birth in John 9:1-7
  7. Raising of Lazarus in John 11:1-45

From a quick glance at the list, we can see that three of the miracles involve various types of physical healing, two of them involve providing for material needs, and one is a supernatural physical feat.

The final miracle, the resurrection of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus, must stand alone, as it is the astounding and meaningful miracle that has ever been recorded.  It is astounding not only for what took place, but for the fierce reaction which it brought from the religious authorities.

For with this Miracle, Jesus provided an irrefutable proof that He is the Son of God, and it was for this miracle that the religious authorities resolved to kill Him.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.  As with any great journey, we must begin with the first step.

Changing water into wine:  The first sign

Shortly after Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, he called his first disciples, Andrew and John (the author).  What is interesting is that Andrew and John actually followed Jesus on John the Baptist’s declarations.  As such, they were not called, rather, they recognized who Jesus was, the long-awaited Messiah, and went after him.

Andrew then went and found his brother, Simon (who Jesus promptly renamed Cephas, or Peter).  The next day, Jesus was determined to go out into Galilee, where he found Phillip, who then went out and found Nathanael.

At this point, we understand that Jesus had five men whom are called  his disciples, yet the only one who he personally sought out was Phillip.

This is important, because it shows that, while Jesus did get up and pursue someone, four of his first five disciples started following him because others saw Jesus and recognized him as the son of God.  Let us not diminish the task that Christians have been given in fulfilling the great commission!

Our teacher, Bettie Mitchell of Good Samaritan Ministries is fond of illustrating this by showing us that while we are looking up to God, crying out for Him to “DO SOMETHING!” God is shouting back down at us “DO SOMETHING!”

It is a profound truth that God does not want subjects, He wants partners!

It is not surprising, then, that Jesus almost never performed a miracle without requiring an action or actions which require the individual to exercise faith.  In fact, in most of the signs, Jesus performs the miracles not as a helicopter parent who is making sure that everything is perfect for everyone, rather, he performs the miracles reluctantly, not because he does not desire a positive outcome, but because he is training those who desire and see in him the possibility of a miracle to walk in faith and courage.

Our first example, then, is when Jesus changes water to wine, a miracle that Jesus openly declares that he does not want to perform:

2:1 The third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there. 2:2 Jesus also was invited, with his disciples, to the marriage. 2:3 When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no wine.”

2:4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with you and me? My hour has not yet come.”

2:5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever he says to you, do it.” 2:6 Now there were six water pots of stone set there after the Jews’ way of purifying, containing two or three metretes apiece. 2:7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the water pots with water.” They filled them up to the brim. 2:8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the ruler of the feast.” So they took it. 2:9 When the ruler of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and didn’t know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the ruler of the feast called the bridegroom, 2:10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when the guests have drunk freely, then that which is worse. You have kept the good wine until now!” 2:11 This beginning of his signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Apart from Jesus’ reluctance to intervene and the faith it must have required on the part of the servants to take the water, which had been poured in what today may be been referred to as a kitchen sink or a wash basin, and present it to the master of the feast as wine, there is one other curiosity in this narrative which deserves further consideration.

Joseph and His Brethren Welcomed by Pharaoh, watercolor by James Tissot 1836-1902
The first sign of Jesus, turning the water into wine at the wedding in Cana, has a harrowing parallel to Joseph saving many by providing for grain during the famine in the Near East, circa 1708 BCE
Painting “Joseph and His Brethren Welcomed by Pharaoh”, watercolor by James Tissot 1836-1902

This curiosity consists of the exact words that Mary uses to instruct the servants to listen to Jesus.  While at first they seem trivial, “Whatever he says to you, do it,” we find in them both a simple requirement for the reception of a miracle, as well as an intricate link with the miraculous survival of the Jewish race some 1700 years earlier from a famine in Canaan:

For the words, “What he says to you, do,” are found not only in John 2:5 above, but also in Genesis 41:55.  In Genesis, they are spoken under much different circumstances…or are they?

The phrase that Mary invokes parallel the instructions that Pharaoh gave to all of the Egyptians when they began to cry out to him for grain during the famine in the Near East.  “Go to Joseph, What he says to you, do.”

As we cry out for a miracle, we would do well to pause, listen, and “Do what he says,” for miracles are born out of obedience.

Stay tuned for the second sign and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: [email protected]

Key Indicators for December 6 2012

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